Without readers, your blog is nothing more than a personal journal. That’s fine if you’re blogging in order to establish a writing practice or to create a body of work — but it’s not so great if you’re hoping to make money or build up a reputation in your field.
Whenever you plan, write or edit a post, you need to have your readers firmly in mind. Here are three crucial points to think about:
#1: Are Your Readers Beginners, Intermediate or Advanced?
You need to know whether your readers are totally new to your niche or whether they’ve been involved with it for years. This will affect everything from the topics you choose to your writing style.
In any given field, most people will be beginners. That doesn’t mean you need to aim all your posts at people just starting out — but you do need to keep in mind that some readers may be very inexperienced.
Tip: Unsure how much your readers already know? Read their comments carefully and see what questions they’re asking. Consider running a survey to find out their current level of expertise.
#2: Choose Your Words Carefully
You wouldn’t talk to your grandma in Church in the same way that you’d talk to your close buddies in a bar: different language is appropriate for different people and situations.
When you consider your word choices, think about:
- Will you use bad language? (And where will you draw the line?) Some bloggers have an “edgy” reputation for swearing on their blogs, but this can be extremely off-putting to some readers.
- Will your readers understand technical terms or jargon? Someone totally new to blogging may have no idea what “WordPress” is or what “RSS” means.
- Do you have an international audience? If you’re in the US, your local idioms might not make much sense to a reader in the UK or Australia.
- How many of your readers are native speakers of your chosen language? If you blog in English, you may have a sizeable audience who have a different first language — and you might want to keep your word choices as simple as possible.
- What level of formality will your audience expect? Your blog isn’t an academic essay, and you can generally get away with using the first person (“I”) and contractions (“isn’t” for “is not”) — but it might not be appropriate to use slangy terms like “bucks” instead of “dollars”.
Tip: Not sure whether you’re hitting the mark? Ask a fellow blogger (ideally someone who’s representative of your target audience) to read a draft post and give you some feedback.
#3: Make Your Post Easy to Read
However advanced your readers are, you need to make your post easy for them to read. That means giving it a clear structure, editing carefully, and using formatting to help break up blocks of text.
Structure: Your post shouldn’t just be a collection of thoughts, meandering down the page. It should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. At the very least, it should be split into paragraphs; you may also want to use subheadings to mark the start of each new section.
Editing: Typos and spelling mistakes are distracting for your reader. They also make your post look less authoritative — even if the content is very strong. Make sure you use spell-check, and that you re-read your post to catch missing words or other mistakes that your spell-checker won’t pick up on.
Formatting: Bold text, bullet-pointed lists, subheadings, images … all of these help make your post easy to read. Once you’ve drafted your post, go back through and see whether you need to add in any formatting to help emphasise key points or to make the structure clearer.
Tip: Try using a particular post structure — like a “how to” or a numbered list. This not only makes your post easier to read, it also makes it easier to write!
What techniques do you use to write posts that really hit the mark for your readers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…
Great article. I am just about to start a blog and I am looking for articles just like this to help me start on the right foot. I was planning on using my first few articles to sort of introduce myself to readers and ask them to comment with ideas and opinions of my writing style. DO you think this is a good idea or will it show that I’m inexperienced and put people off?
Ali Luke says
All great points here — thanks, everyone!
@Tushar — I agree that good formatting is crucial. Headings, lists, bold text etc all help to make a post easy to read.
@Dilanka — Thanks for your comment and for giving the other point of view! I agree with you about being true to yourself — but it’s also useful to think about the readers who you want to attract. I’m certainly not suggesting that bloggers all write in the same style or tone.
@CypherHackz — Ack! Well spotted! I was going to have four, but decided to keep things simple 🙂 I’ve amended the introduction to the post now .
@Kimberly — Yay, glad you read it. And your style sounds perfect for blogging!
Dean Saliba says
I always write like my readers are beginners, because I think that is what the majority of my readers are. I also like to think that any advanded readers will like the fact that my posts explain thing in a simple manner.
Hi Ali Luke,
Well said article,
Without knowing readers interest, we cannot success over online. your three steps are must useful and everyone should follow inorder to create a good relationship with the readers.
Kimberly Gauthier, Adventures in Blogging says
I wasn’t going to read this, because I thought I knew what you’d write; but I was wrong. I really like the first one. I think of my readers as beginners; that they’re in the same boat I am with what I write about – and I write as if I’m talking to a friend. I try to maintain that style. The one time I veered off track, I lost people.
I agree with Tushar about structuring, it’s essential when you want to create valuable content. But how can you turn it into viral?
Ali, you said there are four techniques, but there are only three.
Dilanka Wettewa says
A few good points in this post – But I must disagree with several critical points made here. It’s not helpful to throw around phrases like:
“Choose Your Words Carefully”
“Keep Your Reader In Mind”
Mainly because doing so may actually convince certain people to censor their TRUE SELF – because by definition that is whats being conveyed with such phrases. This is how the blogosphere becomes polluted by way of uniformity.
Instead I say – write well, write for YOU and write precisely what you find interesting – then, and only then will you find the correct subset of readers that will LOVE you. If you follow the opposite approach like this post encourages you, you will be the equivalent of someone who is chasing readers out of desperation.
Structuring the post with the right heading and alignment is as necessary as anything. writing a good content but not supporting it with the right format will be a big disappointment for the readers